Tuesday, September 22, 2015

No... I'm Not the Same... And I'm Not Alone.

    September 22, 2015. September 22, 2014. Yes, it has been a whole year since I first set foot in Sunshine Orchard. A whole year! It hardly seems possible... But at the same time, it seems like I've been here forever. It is also hard to imagine leaving in three weeks from today. But it is comforting to know I will be returning in December.
    Oh, this place! How dear it has become to me! It isn't the campus... It isn't the beauty... It isn't the freedom... Those are all pleasant things yes, but they just add the the real source of joy. It's the people. It's the atmosphere. It's the place where I really began to LIVE, not merely exist. It's where my life began to have a purpose.
    If you have read my other blogs, I'm sure you can see why this place is so special. You can't help but love it with your whole heart. The kid are so precious... Irreplaceable. There isn't a single day that goes by but that I can thank God full of gratitude for giving me these special people in my life.
    To think of leaving in only three weeks is a crazy thought. How could time have slipped by so quickly? I am so excited to see my family and friends!! I'm so happy I will be home for a whole 7 weeks too! But I also know I will miss my kids and everyone else here so very much... It will be good to be back again after a break.
    As I look back over the past year, there is so much that has happened. So much that has changed my life forever. There have been more trials and opportunities for growth than I could have ever imagined! Sadly, I have not taken advantage of all of them. There have also been way more blessings and precious memories than I could have imagined!

    This is not the same little girl that walked away alone from those she held dear in an huge airport with tears streaming down her face and a terrible ache in her heart.
    This isn't the same little girl who lay on her bed alone at night in a motel in Chiang Mai and silently wept.
    This isn't the same girl who walked alone into a crowded chapel as the sky darkened and sat and stared with wonder and fear.
    This isn't the same girl who lay on her mat that night alone, silently screaming in agony of heart such as she had never before known as tears fell like rain on her pillow... Who's head began to throb and wanted nothing but to just go home right then.
    This isn't the same girl who fearfully and timidly sat in the back of Tharamu Suh Pweh's English classes to "help," as little girls filled her hair and hands with flowers and her heart with rays of happiness.
    This isn't the same girl who was asked to teach Tharamu Raquel's English classes when she left after the second term and was so scared at the thought that she couldn't even say no!
    This isn't the same girl who walked to classes that first day of teaching so nervously and with a constant prayer in her heart, pleading for help from the Master Teacher.
    This isn't the same girl who stood by the Steck's house and watched in silence and tears as the car rolled down the road, carrying her second family far away to her homeland and leaving her "alone."
    This isn't the same girl who was too shy and scared to go down to the children's home and ask when they wanted her to move in, so she sat in her hut for three days.
    This isn't the same girl who followed her feelings and made one of the biggest mistakes of her life, agonized through guilt and wretchedness, then struggled to believe in forgiveness and acceptance from God again.
    This isn't the same girl who walked to classes the first day of the 2015-2016 school year with excitement and a little apprehension and nervousness at the thought of teaching three classes instead of two and all of them full of energetic teenagers to look up to her.

    No.... I'm not the same. Praise God!  And I'm not alone. I now realize that I never was. Even when it felt so lonely, so empty, so frightening, God was still showing me that He was there.
    Like the key chain I saw through tear blurred eyes that said, "Jesus loves you." 
    Like being able to sit by an experienced flyer who just happened to be a dear friend. How on earth did she end up with the same flight as me on the same day? How did she end up in the same row on the plane? How did she then end up switching with a kindhearted lady so we sat by each other the whole 11ish hours? I know how. God loves me. God has a plan for me. God is still working. That's how.
    Like not having to really teach when I first got here, but was able to ease into it.
    Perfection? Still so far from it... But I have come to understand more fully the Love of my Father who is the origin of all perfection. Not only that, but He promises to mold and shape me after His own perfect will until I can be perfect as He is. It almost sounds too good to be true. But it is. Because God has said it. And His word never fails. What He says, that He will do. If we will only just believe...
    Oh, to have more of that faith! To even have as much as half a mustard seed... But just imagine if we had as much as a whole seed! That faith can move mountains. Jesus said so. It is the prayer of my heart to have more of that faith... That is may grow day by day, stronger and deeper. May it be your prayer as well. 

An old picture from last year... :)

Friday, September 4, 2015

This Love is God...This God is Love.

    August 26. The last day of exams for this term. Then school break for a week and a half. It hardly seems real that the first term is already over! Less than a month until my anniversary of arrival here at Sunshine Orchard. Two and a half months until I go home. I’m having mixed emotions in regards to all this. :)                (I started writing this last week.)
    As I look back over this first term, I am in awe. I can hardly believe so much has happened in such a short time! SO many lessons, trials, growing times, happy times, sad times, confusing times, overwhelming times… It is truly amazing. No, I should rather say that GOD is truly amazing! There is no way on earth that I could be where I am if He hadn’t been so persistent in drawing me and calling me. I am so far from perfect, true. But the One that I have the privilege of calling “Father” has always been perfect, and I know He won’t give up on me.
    This Love…. I can’t really understand it. With all the times I’ve turned away, with all the times I’ve fallen, with all the times I’ve rejected it… How could that Love still be there? How could it still wrap its arms around me and pick me up again and again? How could it still call, plead, persist every moment, every day? Because this Love does not abide in a human heart. Because this Love has existed for all ages, before time began. Because this Love is God. Because God is Love. So, all I can do is fall on my knees one more time and praise the One who has reached down to this fallen, broken child and grasped her hand with a grip that will never let go.
    I hope you can make some sense out of my ramblings… :)  Sometimes I sit down to write, and what’s in my heart just tumbles out.
    So, over this term, I have had so much fun teaching my kids! Every day is new and different. It can be quite challenging to know what to do sometimes though. Some days they are all hyper and talk a lot. Other days they are grumpy and quiet. When they are talkative, class is really fun. When they aren’t, it can be difficult to keep them involved, and it makes class less enjoyable.
    Sometimes they talk too much. They never talk too much in English, but they seem to forget my classroom rule of no speaking in Karen. They also forget that the punishment for the first offense is 40 squats, the second 80, and so on. I really struggle enforcing it at times! Part of me says, “I don’t want them to not like me. I don’t want to deal with this.” But then the other part says, “No, I must. I love them too much to not do it.” By God’s grace, it is getting easier all the time.
      Oh, the memories that these kids have helped me to create! They have me laughing so much… Sometimes it’s difficult to regain concentration and continue class. Other times they nearly have me in tears with how sweet they are.
    Like when I walk into grade 10 class and the boys were all singing. Saw Ku Shee was laying down with his head in Saw Eh Shee’s lap. Saw Eh Shee was looking down at Saw Ku Shee and acting goofy. Suddenly he looked up and discovered Teacher had come into the room and was watching him. His grinning face instantly turned to stone and he looked down. Than Than Aye and I burst out laughing, and then he looked up at me and grinned again.
    Like when I was in grade 10 writing the vocabulary words on the board for them to copy, and Saw Eh Shee says, “Teacher, you have a beard?” (‘Beard’ was one of the vocab words.) I replied, “Does it look like I have one?” They all laughed and Saw Ku Shee said, “You are too far away. I can’t see. You need to come closer.”
    Later in the same class I asked Maung Soe Thein to pray to close class. He looked at me with his typical eyebrows-raised-eyes-wide look and stuck his tongue out a little bit between his teeth. Then he grinned at me and prayed.
    Again in grade 10 one day, I was reading them the story, “Elijah and the Time of No Rain,” and they were answering questions about it. I would read a page twice, then read the questions on their paper and they would tell me the answers and write them down. One of the questions was, “Did Baal hear them?” Htee Nay Htoo pipes up from the back, “No. Gone to toilet.”
    In grade 6 one day, I was reading the phonics words on the board and they were repeating after me. Suddenly I didn’t hear the boys anymore, only the girls. After one more word, I turned around and said, “I don’t hear the boys.” They all burst out laughing! I continued on, but what a change had taken place in the decibels of the sound coming from behind me! I think they must have hurt their throats producing such volume. At one point, one of the boys made a squeaky/scratchy sound for one of the words and we could hardly continue we were laughing so hard.
    Later in the same class, I was calling them up one by one to circle a word on the board. In the past, I have said something like, “Saw Ta Pet, come circle _______,” and insert one of the words there. This time I wasn’t saying the “come circle” part, but every time I would call someone’s name, Tun That Win (Too Tha Way) would say immediately after me, “Come circle,” and then I would say the word. Some boy has been listening to their teacher!   
    I walked up to teach grade 9 one morning, and Saw Nay Soe was outside the building. He asked me, “How are you?” I said I was tired, but OK. He asked, “Are you sick?” I said I have had a fever every day for a long time. He then said with such concern, “Oh… I very sad Teacher sick.” Oh, if only you knew him and could have seen him as he said it! It was enough to melt my heart. That boy is so sweet.
    There was another time when Saw Nay Soe walked by the house in the morning and called, “Teacher Haley!” (He is one of very few who actually use my name.)
I said, “Yes?”
He said, “Good morning!” with joy and enthusiasm.
“Good morning, Saw Nay Soe!”
“Did you sleep very well?”
“A little bit well.”
“Ah… A little bit? Why?!”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Ah…” with a big grin on his face.    

    This is just a little taste of what I get to enjoy form my students every day. But it isn’t just my students that provide humor… My fellow gullowah teachers can be quite amusing at times.
    One time I called Sharon after worship to see where she was, as she wasn’t at the house. She answered the phone saying, “Hi, Dad.” I was a little taken aback, because last time I knew I was NOT her dad! I said, “Uh, I’m not your dad!” We both laughed for a long time. She had read her phone as saying “Harvey”, not “Haley.” Once we were able to talk again, we got around to the initial purpose for my call. It wasn’t too long before we were laughing just as hard though, as she had thought I was Hannah after discovering I wasn’t “Dad.”
    Last week Hannah and I went to Mae Sot for our visa run. When we got to border, a Thai official stopped us and asked where we were from. Now you see, for missionaries this is a difficult question to answer without thinking longer than usual. We have a hard time deciding if we should say “America” or the current place we are living. Of course, this man wanted to know where we came from originally, but still when we were asked the question, Hannah was having this conflict in her brain, and thus stood there looking a little blank for a moment. The man then asked very seriously, “Do you speak English?” Hannah regained her composure at this point and said “Yes, we are from America.” A moment or two later he asked, “How long will you stay in Burma.” Hannah immediately replied, “Three years. Uh, just today! We will go and come back today.” She had somehow accidentally interpreted his words as, “How long have you been in Thailand?” Never mind the fact that she’s been here for four years…
    During the school break, teachers can become quite amusing. One day Sharon was leaning up against Hannah, and Hannah said, “Sharon… I’m not a hitching post.”
    Later while laying the vinyl in the Steck’s new house, Mr. Steck said, “This stuff has shortening in it.” Hannah said, “Shortening??” Mr. Steck replied, “Yeah. It keeps shortening.”

    Here are a few pictures from life around here recently. I hope you enjoy them! :)

I've seen this happen at least twice since being here. I'm thankful for such beauty God gives us!

When the power goes out, what do we do? We use candles, of course! And then we take pictures of them. ;)

Occasionally we have a little "distraction" come to visit us. ;)  Ellen is Thara Eh K'nyaw's youngest daughter. She loves to "help" us with whatever we're doing.

"I want to play the violin too, Tharamu Hannah! Can't I just grab it from you?"

She is getting really good at walking.

And grinning too.

And both at the same time!

She loves my bed for some reason... She will walk over to it and plop herself down, climbing all over it.

Some weeks ago, each class had a picnic with their class teacher. We played games, had worship, and ate together. Because I am Grade 9's class teacher, I was in charge of making the picnic happen for that grade. It was lots of fun! It can be discouraging sometimes when they are all chattering away and I can't understand everything, but just being with them is fun anyways. I am learning too, so I hope one day I will be able to understand everything they say. :)

Playing volleyball.

The kids had my camera nearly the whole time. I only took a few pictures at the beginning, and they took the rest. This is when we had worship. K'nyaw Paw translated for me. I am so proud of her! I speak too quickly sometimes, so I have to repeat myself. She did very well!

Sah Paw Mwee and July Paw.

My funny boys who had the camera were very insistent on taking pictures and videos of me. And everyone else, for that matter. I was comforted that it was my camera at least.
Last Friday we put down some of the vinyl in the Steck's new house. It was kind of challenging to figure out how to cover the whole floor, but it was mostly fun. :)

Sharon isn't very thrilled with her neem leaf tea. It is to try help with this low grade fever/tiredness bug we have.

Staple gun fun...

I thought the floor looked cool... And getting Sharon in the picture wasn't too bad either. For a while we were all sacked out on the floor.